Now that it has hooked up with Nokia Corp. phones, Microsoft Corp. hopes to connect its phone software to the Xbox this year too. It’s also planning other improvements that include a faster Web browser and quicker switching between phone applications.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the upgrades Monday in a keynote speech at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. On Friday, Nokia Corp. said it would ditch its smart-phone software in favour of using Windows Phone 7, which launched late last year.

Microsoft showed a video of three people using an Xbox game console with a Kinect camera. One of them, standing in front of the camera, “dodged” balls that appeared on the TV screen, sent by the two other players from their Windows phones.

In another upgrade, Microsoft plans to introduce a form of “multitasking” for third-party applications. To switch quickly between apps, the user can hold down the “back” button, which reveals a list of recently-used applications, displayed like a row of “cards” on the screen. It’s a design reminiscent of Palm Inc.’s webOS software, which attracted few customers despite receiving favourable reviews when it was released in 2009. Hewlett-Packard Co. bought Palm last year and plans to use the software in a range of products, including tablets and PCs.

Microsoft also plans to upgrade its browser to make it more responsive. Microsoft runs a version of its Internet Explorer that lags behind smart-phone browsers when it comes to speed.

Windows phones will get their first, previously announced software update in March. It will add a cut-and-paste feature. The more wide-ranging updates revealed Monday will come later in the year.

Microsoft is playing catch-up in the phone market, with sales far behind those of Apple Inc.’s iPhone and phones based on Google Inc.’s Android software. Microsoft is paying billions for Nokia’s support, and Nokia’s CEO says the smart-phone market will now be more of “three-horse race.”

Microsoft shares dipped 10 cents to $27, 16 in afternoon trading.